The short answer is “nothing good”
The long answer is that your hard drive is either showing the beginning stages of or has already begun to fail. It’s very serious and if you have the ability to access your data and store it somewhere else, do so right now!
Chirping noises from hard drives, be it external or internal are almost always due to hardware failures
In special cases, the chirping noise coming from a hard drive can be due to a lack of available resources in a computer. And, in very rare instances hard drives can be brought back to life temporarily by freezing it (which we DO NOT recommend) or by plugging it into a different computer. But for the most part, a chirping drive is in need of a clean room that is specially designed to disassemble your hard drive, swap the plates into a different drive, and try to spin them back up to access the data. The entire process is upwards of $1500-$3000 in most cases and takes several weeks.
Preparedness is the best defense against chirping drives
When it comes to important data, it’s always a good idea to have several backups. However here’s something about spending hundreds or even thousands of dollars on electronic equipment that gives people a false sense of security that those devices will simply just work forever. Unfortunately this is not the case. Electronics are as susceptible to failure as anything else, and seem to be getting worse.
Everyone has a story about their old [insert old thing] that has just always worked forever without any problems. But as new things get smaller, faster, lighter, and more expensive, they seem to also break quicker.
But now there’s hope. Carbonite backup solutions from ITGuys provide a worry free way to backup all of your data. Just set it and forget it.
If your drive is already chirping, unfortunately we can’t help you. But for those of you reading this, take the 5 minutes to signup for carbonite right now. For the $60 or so per year, you can sleep soundly with the knowledge that you’ll never lose a file again.